Using MySQL and PHP, we created a new WordPress blog on your Mac in our last installment. Today, we want to lock it down so that evil people don’t fill up your MySQL database tables with comments about Viagra and gambling casinos. We also want to show you a few tricks for customizing WordPress to better meet your needs and those of your readers. Comment spam has become the new cottage industry in the blog world, and it’s something you need to deal with up front, or you’ll be sorry within a few days of launching your new blog. There are some exhaustive articles on the tools that are available to assist you. But, let me save you a lot of time and disappointment. There’s one tool that really works, and it’s easy to install. My advice is simple: try my solution and look elsewhere only if you continue to see problems. Once you begin adding multiple filters, you have to worry about conflicts so, if one tool works, stick with one tool. WordPress HashCash works, period. It dynamically generates an MD5 hash each time a comment form is submitted. This effectively kills spambots dead in their tracks. If you want to read more about how it works, here’s the link that tells all. The hardest part is getting HashCash downloaded, but here’s how.

Downloading WordPress HashCash. Here’s the current link for WordPress HashCash. What used to be two files is now combined into the .php file. Read on before downloading. Because of the nature of this file, it doesn’t download in the usual way. Here are the steps to get the actual file. First, click on the link above. Then, read the information about the various versions and match the one you need to your version of WordPress. Once you select the correct link, scroll down to the bottom of the displayed web page. Next, Ctrl-Click (or right-click) on the link labeled "Plain Text." Choose Save Linked File As and provide the file names shown above to save each file to your Desktop. Using Finder, click on your local hard disk and move to the following folder: /Library/WebServer/Documents/blog/wp-content/plugins. Now click-and-drag each of the two downloaded files on your Desktop to the plugins folder. Finally, open the Admin section of WordPress: http://127.0.0.1/blog/wp-admin. Click on the Plugins tab and Activate WordPress HashCash by clicking on the appropriate link. Now you can sleep well knowing your WordPress blog is in good hands.

WordPress Beautification. WordPress 1.5 has only been in production a couple of weeks so the number of available skins (known as Themes in WordPress 1.5 lingo) to change the appearance of WordPress are not as numerous as with previous versions. But there are a number to choose from and most of them are available from Alex King’s web site. Installing them couldn’t be much easier. Go to the web site and view each of the various Themes by clicking on its name. Then click on the Download links for the Themes you like. Theme folders will be downloaded to your Desktop. Now repeat the steps shown above to navigate to /Library/WebServer/Documents/blog/wp-content/themes. Then click and drag the Themes folders on your Desktop to the themes folder for your blog. Choose the Theme you want to activate by opening the Admin section of WordPress (just as we did above). Click on the Presentation tab, and then click Select for the Theme you wish to make your default. Click View Site and your new Theme will appear for your very own blog. How simple is that?

Reader’s Choice. You may decide, as we have, that you’d like your visitors to be able to pick the Theme they prefer to read your blog. After all, the whole purpose of page layout is to enhance the viewing experience for readers, not for you. So why not make it easy for folks to choose a viewing style that is most comfortable for them. The default viewing theme gets saved as a cookie so the next time the person visits your site, they’ll see your blog in the Theme chosen on their last visit. With WordPress 1.5, implementing Theme Switching for your blog is a no-brainer. Go to boren.nu and download the Theme Switcher. This will download a file to your Desktop that will decompress into theme-switcher.php. Using the procedure we’ve used in the previous examples, click-and-drag this file into /Library/WebServer/Documents/blog/wp-content/plugins. Now open the Admin section of WordPress: http://127.0.0.1/blog/wp-admin. Click on the Plugins tab and Activate Theme Switcher by clicking on the corresponding activate link. With most of the new themes, your visitors will now get a listing from which to choose a preferred Theme to view your blog.

WordPress Configuration. There are a number of things you can control with your blog. If you haven’t figured it out already, you get to these settings using the Admin control panel of WordPress. To get you started, we’ve listed below some of the settings we use for Nerd Vittles. You may want to do other things with your blog which is perfectly fine. You always can change these settings as you get more comfortable with WordPress. But, the settings below will protect your blog from outsider control at least until you get your feet wet. As with any configuration changes, you’re better off making one or two adjustments at a time and viewing the results. Then, if something unexpected happens, it’s much easier to figure out what went wrong and fix it. Enjoy!

  • Options – GeneralUncheck both options under Membership and set your Time Zone
  • Options – ReadingChoose the number of blog entries which should appear when someone accesses your blog
  • Options – DiscussionCheck the third option only in Usual Settings; check both options in Email Me; check the first two options in Before A Comment Appears
  • Links – Manage LinksDecide which Links you want to retain and/or add to your Blogroll
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    This article has 2 comments

    1. The md5.js is not on that server anymore. Where else can I find it?

      [WM: The author of WP HashCash has now incorporated the md5.js code into the main .php file. I’ve adjusted the links in the text of this article accordingly. Thanks.]

    2. 1st, thank you very much for providing such great resources. They have been invaluable as I set up my 1st blog and many other things. I just finished the wordpress tutorials (both) and although all seemed ok, the final result is that I can only access my blog properly on the server it resides on. I tried the FAQ for wordpress but saw nothing related to my problem. If you go to http://www.ibryan.com/blog it shows the text but not images etc. Any help would be great.

      Cheers,
      Bryan

      [WM: The disappearing images problem you describe is almost always caused by moving your blog to a different directory location than the one where it was created. For example, if I create my blog in mundy.org/blog and then try to access it at blog.mundy.org (which points back to the /blog subdirectory), WordPress doesn’t like this. If you’re comfortable with PHPmyadmin, you can edit the wp_options table and put your new site location in two records: siteurl and home. Then everything will magically start appearing again. Good luck!]